March 28, 2011
every time i’m on hawthorne (a weird sort-of-pseudo-hippie-in-that-way-where-the-hippies-there-pretend-the-whole-place-is-hippie (like Mendocino County!) “destination neighborhood”/shopping district in southeast portland), i look at all the one and two story buildings and grumble. so many people driving to this neighborhood, searching for parking, lots of them saying wouldn’t it be nice if they could afford to live there and walk around, and yet there aren’t apartments above all the shops. and when i do see a three or four story building (which i’m sure all the neighbors complained about), i grumble, too, thinking of how often those kinds of projects benefit only the rich and middle class who then live in condos on these streets and own a car. or two. and make everything worse.
yes, i grumble a lot on hawthorne!
and yet… i’m fascinated by the potential there and in every neighborhood, really. i like to look at the buildings and imagine beautiful (at least partially income restricted) additions to them, at least some of them topped with gardens or playgrounds or both. or maybe even a rooftop restaurant or two with gardens surrounding it. i like to look down the side streets and imagine them emptied of cars (or at least most cars) and think about how the street could be narrowed, and what people (you know, those fleshy mostly hairless creatures who breathe and actually LIVE in cities, unlike cars which are neither alive nor have the potential to be) might do with the extra space and how many more people would let their children out to play if they didn’t have to worry about people zooming through their neighborhood. and once there is a critical mass of children set free to play outside, nothing can hold back the floodgates as people spend more and more time interacting with each other and the children form a little tribe. i have seen it on my street, even (we lucked into neighbors who let their kids knock on our door and say “can you come out and play?” almost every day).
and i long for that kind of change. i love city life for social reasons, and because i hate being in cars and contributing to car culture and rural life seems so tied to that in this era (unless you are willing to REALLY live a historically and globally accurate rural life, which involves a lot of staying home or in your smaller community). and i think people make beautiful buildings and beautiful gardens. and i see so much more potential, “even” here in supposed eco-city Portland, OR. there is so much change to be made to make this city livable for all it’s residents (human and otherwise).
i dream of it and i want to live in it. i want my children to grow up in it.